Energy Saving Strategies for Older Homes

If you live in an older home, you know it’s a challenge to keep energy costs manageable, especially during cold weather. According to articles posted on and, there are a variety of steps you can take to keep your home warm and efficient, and keep your energy bills lower:

  1. Consider insulating attic spaces. This can have a tremendous impact on a home’s energy efficiency, and significantly reduce heating and cooling costs. The best types of insulation available now are blow-in spray foam options.
  2. Add insulation to the roof and exterior walls, as well as to the basement foundation walls and floor slab.
  3. Seal cracks, leaks and holes. These retrofits will help reduce heat losses in winter and heat gains in summer. Common spots where air leakage occurs include electrical boxes, plumbing, wiring and ducts that run through exterior walls or into the attic, around chimneys and exhaust fans in attic spaces, and where the first floor joists rest on the foundation wall. Windows and doors with worn or missing gaskets and weather-stripping or those not well-sealed to the surrounding walls are also locations of air leaks.
  4. If it’s feasible from a budgetary standpoint, replace old windows and doors and choose new, energy efficient options. Since this is expensive, adding storm shutters and clear plastic coating to windows can help an old home be more efficient. For homeowners who can’t replace doors and windows, adding window stripping and caulk is also a good idea.
  5. Insulate the hot water heater and associated pipes, and keep the thermostat set at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. If possible, consider a tankless water-heating unit. These are an upfront investment, but they save money in the long-term, because they only heat water when it’s needed.
  6. Enact home heating zones. This means strategizing to heat a home based on usage. For example, heat the downstairs of an old home during the day, and the upstairs at night.
  7. If an old home also has old appliances, it may be worthwhile to invest in newer energy saving models. While there are some things owners of older homes can’t control without big remodeling investments, this is a less expensive alternative.
  8. Just because a home is old doesn’t mean it can’t take advantage of new technology, like home automation systems. A home automation system can allow owners of older homes to control the systems located within, even remotely, including the thermostat.
  9. Above-grade walls in older homes are typically wood frame, and there may be fiberglass batt insulation in the stud cavity. To increase insulation values in the exterior walls, the existing interior drywall and polyethylene can be removed and a new second row of wood framing installed. Insulation and a new polyethylene vapor retarder and air barrier can then be added to the new stud wall complete with new gypsum board finish.
  10. Replace existing single- or double-glazed windows with double- or triple-glazed windows that meet or exceed the Energy Star rating for your location. Energy-efficient windows often have low-e coatings, argon-gas fill and low-conductivity insulating glass edge spacers.
  11. Below-grade walls are often concrete or concrete block, and they may either be uninsulated or have wood-frame walls with fiberglass batt insulation that were added some time after the house was built. One way you can increase the thermal resistance of the foundation walls is to install foam board insulation directly against the inside surface of the foundation wall. Be sure to insulate and air seal the area between the floor joists where they rest on the foundation wall. For the basement floor slab, if you have adequate ceiling to floor height, you may be able to install extruded polystyrene board insulation over the existing slab and then add new finished flooring.